Introducing Niku—A South African Underwear Designer
The world of men’s underwear is very diverse. Most men find their favorites brands and order whatever fits them best. Nick and the team at Niku are exploding onto the market with some great products. I recently had a conversation with Nick to get some insight on his business. I hope you enjoy reading about what Niku is doing and go out and try their products.
Salvatore: What got you started in the underwear industry?
Nick: I am formally trained as fashion designer and pattern cutter and I have been making my own underwear for many years. Around the year 2009 I was between jobs I wanted to create a brand, make a website and ship around the world.
I have to admit that as much as I liked underwear my other choice was denim jeans. We all love that perfect pair that fits just right. The Italian brands get it right for me: Dondub, D&G, Versace. The whole world wears jeans, but denim is a very expensive process and the environmental impact is huge. Shipping underwear anywhere to any place in the world is a much more cost-effective option for a startup like me. With underwear matching my passion for good jeans and having made my own underwear for some time it was an easy leap to start the NIKU brand on the world`s fastest growing market: men`s fashion underwear. I have always been hands on in the manufacturing industry. The processes fascinated me and I mastered all of them: Design, patternmaking, grading, cutting, sewing, screen-printing, etc. I have had some of my own businesses in the past and started out young then. This taught me a great deal about trade, the industry and business. I was too young to be taken serious, but did end up being headhunted.
To start was not an easy process. A great deal of sacrifice is required. The development process is costly. Being new in the market makes for slow sales. Hard work and determination is required to push in and win that space in the shop shelves. Education of the clients, as well as store buyers, and a slow conversion of customers to make NIKU their new best brand is a difficult process.
Many guys approach me directly or by e-mail with advice to start their own brand. The strong images and huge Internet following makes many want to be a part of it. The cost of getting started has many running for the hills. I have helped a few get to the point of having a good selling range. Others I advise to get involved in sales, shoots, blogging and many other creative ways of becoming part of this industry. For those who are willing to be consumers of the images and garments we produce, I express my gratitude, because they motivate us to push on and keep doing better.
Salvatore: Specifically, what led you to high quality men’s underwear? What setbacks and successes have you experienced throughout the process of startup?
Nick: I always had a passion for underwear. It was the first thing I would buy myself on my travels to many cities around the world.
The worst setbacks are bad business people who do not honour their word. They waste your time and some do not pay their bills. When you do not grow your business and have no funds available to buy stock in and request consignment stock.
My best success is when a client returns time and time again and they changed over to only wearing NIKU. There have been many and I am sure still many more to come.
Salvatore: From the production aspect, what does it take to create a pair of your underwear from start to finish?
Nick: The raw materials needed are elastic, fabric, and labels. Then one needs a pattern that is well developed for cut and fit. With the proper machinery it is a quick and effortless process. My skilled staff put a pair together very quickly.
Salvatore: What is the logic behind your emphasis on the basic look and your pouch design
Nick: Lots of guys like basic looks. That’s what we offer. #bestbasic refer to mainly style, eg. brief or trunk. None of the weird and wonderful creations you can find out there. The basic styles are updated with fabric, paneling and contrast bindings to bring a new modern look.
The pouches are well fitted and tested. Anatomical is quite accurate. I have to tell you this funny story about a lady that used to sew for me. As an older lady her statement was even funnier.
The pieces of cloth that make up the pouch look like leaves. One day as she was sewing pouches she told me that from her experience with men, I can cut my leaves smaller. Lol ! We had such a good laugh. I have found that older men like a looser pouch . We incorporate various pouches with the different styles and the clients find their best pair.
Salvatore: What types of people are buying your brand? Are your clients mainly South African or are other countries catching on?
Nick: We make converts all the time; from gay men to a greater amount of straight men. Most of our clients are mainly South Africans. We do have many foreign visitors to Cape Town who discover and support NIKU. Some websites sell NIKU to the international markets and we have shipped to diverse places around the globe.
Salvatore: How important is client feedback? Can you share some of the feedback you’ve received?
Nick: Most styles are developed on client feedback. Some of the first feedback from clients helped us reach the perfect size of the pouches. Then new preferences like low cut or high rise are some of the additions according to demand. The sales figures are the best form of client feedback. We love to see styles fly off the shelf as result of client affirmation of our fabric choices and color combinations.
Salvatore: What is the most important thing for our readers to understand about your processes, product, and professionalism?
Nick: We desire to make underwear and other garments that overtake garments in your wardrobe as your new favorite. NIKU is the first garment you reach for in that freshly laundered pile.
Salvatore: Thank for sharing your heart and passion for underwear, Nick. We look forward to working with your brand on many posts. Can’t wait to try your products.
There you have it, folks. From the mouth of the creator, designer, and producer of Niku–they strive to make you comfortable in your underwear. I encourage all of you to go and check out Nick and Niku at:
If you are ever in Capetown, South Africa, drop in on their brand store and sample a few pairs!